Silverbacks visit the Vees at Penticton tonight, in a crucial game for the ‘Backs.

The Silverbacks hosted the Merritt Centennials last night, Friday February 27th in the final regular season meeting between the division rivals. The winner would clinch a playoff spot with each team having just one game remaining tonight, as the ‘Backs travel to Penticton to take on the Vees at 6p.m.

The Cents gave up the first goal but scored five unanswered and skated to a 5-1 victory in front of an announced attendance of 2,125 fans at the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm.

Just 2:24 into the first period, Taro Hirose of the Silverbacks skated the puck in over the Merritt line along the left wing and fired a shot onto starting goalie Jonah Imoo who made the save but Josh Laframboise jumped on the rebound in front to give the home team the early lead. Laframboise’s 12th of the season from Hirose was the only goal in the opening period as the ‘Backs outshot the Cents 14-8.

To begin the middle frame, Laframboise was penalized for high sticking at 1:02. And the Centennials capitalized on their second power-play of the game, John Schiavo beat Angus Redmond at 2:15 for his 28th from Shane Poulsen and Diego Cuglietta.

Jordan Burns was then called for roughing at 3:54 and Merritt potted it’s second consecutive power-play marker. Schiavo’s second of the game and 29th from Griffyn Martin and Rhett Willcox at 4:05.

The Centennials went ahead 3-1 at 15:21, as Colin Grannary scored his 19th from Michael Ederer and Martin. And Merritt wasn’t finished in the second period, Ederer increased the lead to 4-1 at 19:28 from Brandon Duhaime and Cole Arcuri. The Silverbacks outshot the Centennials again, 17-13 in the second period but trailed 4-1 after 40 minutes.

The only goal of the third frame came with Angus Redmond on the bench for the extra attacker with just over three minutes to play and the ‘Backs down 4-1. Zak Bowles found the empty net for his 11th, unassisted at 18:32.

The Silverbacks outshot the Centennials 14-6 in the third period and 45-27 overall. The ‘Backs finished 0-for-4 on the power-play and 1-for-3 on the penalty-kill.

Merritt finishes third in the Interior Division and has 66 points in 57 games as the Cents host the Trail Smoke Eaters at 7:30 tonight.

The Silverbacks are fourth in the division but still tied with the West Kelowna Warriors who are in fifth place and who were idle on Friday night, as the Warriors play their final regular season game tonight at home to the Surrey Eagles at 7.

The Warriors are 28-21-0-8 with 64 points in 57 games, while the Silverbacks are 28-21-3-5 with 64 points in 57 games.

The Silverbacks are 8-2-0-0 in their last 10 games, 7-2 in February, 18-12-2-3 versus Interior Division opponents and 13-12-1-3 on the road this season.

Meanwhile, the Vees won 3-2 at home over the Vernon Vipers last night (Friday) and are 43-9-3-2 with 91 points in 57 games, 6-2-1-0 in February, 28-8-1-1 versus the Interior Division and 23-3-1-0 at home this season.

The Vees lead the season series with the Silverbacks with three regulation wins and one double-overtime victory. Penticton has outscored the ‘Backs 11-10 in the six games this far.

Penticton began with 5-1 victory at home over the ‘Backs on Friday, October 3rd before winning 4-3 in double-OT on Saturday, October 4th at the Shaw Centre. The Vees scored a 3-1 decision in Salmon Arm on Sunday October 26th. The team’s tied 2-2 on Friday, December 12th at the Shaw Centre before the Silverbacks won their only game of the series thus far, 3-0 on Saturday, January 3rd in Salmon Arm. The Vees shutout the ‘Backs 1-0 in their last meeting on Wednesday, January 28th in Penticton.

Tonight’s game features three goalies who are ranked in the top six among BCHL netminders. The Vees Hunter Miska is number one at 33-9-3 in 45 games with a 1.90 goals-against-average and five shutouts, while Brendan Barry of the Vees is second, 10-2 in 14 games with a 2.06 goals-against-average and two shutouts. The Silverbacks Angus Redmond is ranked sixth, 24-22-2 in 49 games with five shutouts and a 2.73 goals-against-average.

Taro Hirose leads the ‘Backs in scoring with 18 goals and 32 assists in 57 games and is 37th overall in the BCHL, while Andrew Farny is still the highest scoring defenseman with 14 goals and 35 assists in 53 games.

Patrick Newell leads the Vees in scoring and is ranked 42nd in league with 16 goals and 31 assists in 55 games.

All Silverbacks regular season and playoff games are webcast via http://www.fasthockey.com as well as audio only at http://mixlr.com/sasilverbacks/ Also, all Silverbacks road games are broadcast on CKVS-FM 93.7 http://www.voiceoftheshuswap Tonight’s broadcast from the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm will begin with the Pre-game show at 6:45p.m., the Opening Face-off is set for 7p.m.

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